On Thursday, the Church celebrated the great feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It was on July 16, 1251, that the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Simon Stock to entrust to him her Brown Scapular, with the promise that “those who die wearing this habit will not suffer eternal fire.” This feast commemorates the apparition and the love and protection of Mary signified by the Scapular.
The Scapular is the ancient Jewish garment worn underneath the clothes to signify that the Jew belonged to God and His Covenant. It is prescribed in the Book of Numbers and was worn by Jesus, Mary, St. Joseph, and all observant Jews. Our Blessed Mother has adopted this Jewish custom and fulfilled its usage to her own purposes. The Scapular signifies now that the wearer belongs to the Blessed Virgin Mary and is under her special protection.
It’s important for us to understand that Mount Carmel has been the center of Jewish-Christian monastic/eremetical life since the life of the Prophet Elijah. It was on Mount Carmel that he received the beautiful prophecy of the Virgin Mary in the form of the heel-shaped cloud bringing relief during the great drought. This cloud symbolizes her who is to crush the head of the ancient serpent. From her will rain down the Just One, the Savior.
Tradition holds that the Jewish Carmelites received the teaching of St. John the Baptist and then were baptized on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. It was then that they understood the full Marian meaning of Mount Carmel and they spent days in intimate communion with Our Lady in Jerusalem. Returning home to Carmel, they built an oratory in her honor on the promontory where Elijah had received the prophetic Cloud of Mary.
The Scapular is the spiritual inheritance of Carmel. We all should wear it all the time, in order to place ourselves under the guidance and protection of the Flower of Carmel. She will make Jesus Christ rain down on our souls and there will bud forth in our hearts a great garden of holiness.
Fr. Joseph Previtali